Johan Halvorsen

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Johan Halvorsen
Johan Halvorsen part.JPG
Background information
Born15 March 1864
Drammen, Norway
Died4 December 1935 (age 71)
Oslo, Norway
Genres Classical
Occupation(s) Conductor, pedagogue, violinist
Instruments Violin
Associated acts Oslo-Filharmonien

Johan Halvorsen (15 March 1864 – 4 December 1935) was a Norwegian composer, conductor and violinist.



Born in Drammen, Norway he was an accomplished violinist from a very early age and became a prominent figure in Norwegian musical life. He received his musical education in Kristiania (now Oslo) and Stockholm, and was a concertmaster in Bergen before joining the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. He was a concertmaster in Aberdeen, Scotland, then a professor of music in Helsinki, and finally became a student once again, in St Petersburg, Leipzig (with Adolph Brodsky), Berlin (with Adolf Becker), and Liège (with César Thomson).

1898 Music festival in Bergen by Agnes Nyblin. Left to right: Christian Cappelen, Catharinus Elling, Ole Olsen, Gerhard Rosenkrone Schelderup, Iver Holter, Agathe Backer Grondahl, Edvard Grieg, Christian Sinding, Johan Svendsen and Halvorsen Norske komponister ved Musikkfesten i Bergen, 1898.jpg
1898 Music festival in Bergen by Agnes Nyblin. Left to right: Christian Cappelen, Catharinus Elling, Ole Olsen, Gerhard Rosenkrone Schelderup, Iver Holter, Agathe Backer Grøndahl, Edvard Grieg, Christian Sinding, Johan Svendsen and Halvorsen
Card Party in Leipzig c. 1887 showing Nina and Edvard Grieg, Johan Halvorsen, Frederick Delius, and Christian Sinding Grieg-Delius-Leipzig 1887.jpg
Card Party in Leipzig c. 1887 showing Nina and Edvard Grieg, Johan Halvorsen, Frederick Delius, and Christian Sinding

Returning to Norway in 1893, he worked as conductor of the theatre orchestra at Den Nationale Scene in Bergen and of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. He became concertmaster of the Bergen Philharmonic in 1885, and principal conductor in 1893. In 1899 he was appointed conductor of the orchestra at the newly opened National Theatre in Kristiania, [2] a position he held for 30 years until his retirement in 1929.

As well as theatre music, Halvorsen conducted performances of over 30 operas and also wrote the incidental music for more than 30 plays. Following his retirement from the theatre he finally had time to concentrate on the composition of his three symphonies and two well-known Norwegian rhapsodies.

Halvorsen's compositions were a development of the national romantic tradition exemplified by Edvard Grieg though written in a distinctive style marked by innovative orchestration. Halvorsen married Grieg's niece, and orchestrated some of his piano works, such as a funeral march which was played at Grieg's funeral. Five days after Halvorsen died, Grieg's cousin and widow Nina Grieg also died.

His best known works today are the Bojarenes inntogsmarsj ( Entry March of the Boyars ) and Bergensiana, along with his Passacaglia and Sarabande, duos for violin and viola based on themes by George Frideric Handel.

In early 2016, librarians at the University of Toronto announced that they had located the manuscript score of his violin concerto, performed only thrice in 1909 and considered lost. The piece is to receive its second debut in July 2016. [3]

Selected compositions

Incidental music
  1. Springar
  2. I went so lately to my bed
  3. Halling - Springar
  1. Dance tune from Åmot
  2. Han Ole
  3. Springar
  1. Peik, prinsessen og stortrollet (Peik, the Princess and the Big Troll)
  2. Prinsessen kommer ridende på bjørnen (The Princess Comes Riding on a Bear)
  3. Trollenes inntog i berget det blå (Entry of the Trolls into the Town Hall)
  4. Dans av småtroll (Dance of the Little Trolls)
Concert band
Chamber music
  1. Intermezzo orientale
  2. Entr'acte
  3. Scherzino – "Spurven" (The Sparrow)
  4. Veslemøys sang (Veslemøy's Song)
  5. Fête nuptial rustique (An Old-fashioned Wedding)


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  1. Norske komponister ved Musikkfesten i Bergen, 1898,, Retrieved 22 May 2016
  2. Lionel Carley (1 January 2006). Edvard Grieg in England. Boydell Press. pp. 337–. ISBN   978-1-84383-207-2.
  3. Reynolds, Christopher. "U of T Librarian chances upon lost 1909 concerto". Toronto Star January 6, 2016.
  4. Margaret Hayford O'Leary (2010). Culture and Customs of Norway. ABC-CLIO. pp. 155–. ISBN   978-0-313-36248-4.
  5. Percy Grainger; Malcolm Gillies; Bruce Clunies Ross (1999). Grainger on Music. Oxford University Press. pp. 198–199. ISBN   978-0-19-816665-8.
  6. "Lost' Halvorsen violin concerto unearthed in Canada". The Strad . 2016-01-06. Retrieved 2017-11-30.